Following the half term break, all of the children at Oakthorpe Primary School immersed themselves in a week of local history. We studied old maps of the village, from 1904, and found the clues to our coal mining heritage. After understanding how coal was formed millions of years ago, we learned about how it is mined in modern times and compared that to mining in the 1800’s.
One Year 5 boy said, “I liked learning about the ponies – they were used to carry the buckets of coal because they were stronger than the children. We found out the gin stables were across the road opposite the leisure centre. I thought it was funny when we were told about the pit ponies – they lived in the pit all the time but one time they were allowed a holiday and the miners had to chase them because they didn’t want to go back into the pit!”
A Year 5 girl said, “I enjoyed the visit from Measham Museum and liked seeing the retired miner wearing the safety equipment from modern mining. We looked at old photographs and tried to work out where different places were. I learned about the dangers from mining during the 1800’s but the visitors told us how even in modern mining it was still dangerous and you could get hurt.”
There is so much knowledge that the children have learnt and we wanted to share this knowledge with the local community. Below are extracts from our children’s final essays:
‘Around 200 years ago, children were sent to do work down the mine from as young as five years old. They would have to get up early, travel by foot and work until late afternoon. They would work as trappers or drawers. The work was very hard and it was dark, cold and dangerous in the mines. Most of the children were terrified of the dark. The pit bosses…were very strict and often cruel: they measured the amount of coal you dug using a stick (it was a yard long).’
‘William Evans lived in Oakthorpe in 1881. We have looked at Census records and learnt about his family history. He had 3 sisters and 2 brothers. His dad’s name was Edward and his mum’s name was Sarah. William became a miner just like his father before him.’
‘The miners lived in terraced cottages which can still be seen today. They had hard lives and had to be up at 3am to walk to work. The younger children went to school at the chapel. Miners might have gone to the inn at the weekend to rest. It was hard times for the miners in Oakthorpe, but without them it wouldn’t be a wonderful village.’
Each year, the children will learn more about our local history and continue to build on this knowledge. During our week of learning, all children went on a local walk and were joined by local resident, Glynn Davies. The children were so grateful for this expert knowledge and loved asking lots of questions. If any residents have any further photos or artefacts of the village, staff would love to speak them to support our teaching.